People generally like art, if their consumption of aesthetic objects is any indication. Artists of many traditions from all over the world have spent many centuries crafting images depicting the beauty of nature and the human form, and classical masterpieces remain the gold standard of virtuosity. But for many, the landscape of modern art is often a strange and confusing place, populated by statues that look like melting rock formations and portraits that look like paint shop accidents. To some people, it's art with an asterisk, requiring footnotes to be fully understood and appreciated. And who's got time to do the research necessary to fully appreciate the nuances and complexities of a woman with eyes on the same side of her face?
Well, I don't know about you, but I love asterisks*. And though the extent of my knowledge is not exactly omniscient, I have a deep intellectual affection for the goals, methods, and theories of modern art. Modern art, by the way, is not merely a synonym for contemporary of 20th century art; it's a distinct mode of creativity that emphasizes experimentation and a search for new symbolic languages. It's not the only way of doing art in the modern era, and it exists alongside both traditional methods and postmodern art (more on that later), but it is for my money the most interesting and fun to experience and enjoy.
So, with a recent visit to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, I decided to share my love of modern art with you (whoever you are). Here is an abbreviated guided tour of some of my favorite pieces within the walls of MOMA, with commentary and fuzzy reproductions from my horrible, horrible camera. Do not be afraid of the weirdness.
Duchamp represents a type of art called Dada, which has been called the first postmodern art movement, because its central purpose was to remind museum-goers that everything they saw hanging reverently on the wall was bullshit. And really it is, but so's everything else. Let's look at more art.
Sometimes, an object is art because it is beautiful. Sometimes, it's art just because the artist says it is (see Duchamp's work for more on that). In the case, I was led to understand that this sculpture by Jackie Winsor, a complicated and impractical collection of sticks and yarn balls, is art because it was really, really hard to make. And yes, I imagine that it was.